Monday, May 02, 2011

The Jazz Guitar Genius Of Eddie Lang

Before Django, before Oscar Alemán, before Charlie Christian, there was Eddie Lang.

Trained as a violinist, the Philadelphia-born Lang switched to banjo and guitar and, after a prominent role in the popular Mound City Blue Blowers, ultimately became New York City's studio ace with the OKeh, Columbia and Victor record labels - in a role not dissimilar from fellow "house guitarists" Barney Kessel and Herb Ellis at Norman Granz' Verve Records a quarter century later - working with recording artists of diverse styles and persuasions.

Using the nom-de-plume Blind Willie Dunn in those 1920's days of segregation, Eddie played guitar with Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Lonnie Johnson and many more jazz and blues innovators.

When the guitarist joined the Jean Goldkette Orchestra, which also featured Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, he met Bix Beiderbecke and Frankie Trumbauer. The trio soon got down to business recording such Roaring Twenties classics as the following:

Arguably, Lang's best known musical partnership was with violinist Joe Venuti.

Here's a brief clip of the inspired Venuti/Lang duo - without a doubt, an enormous influence on The Hot Club Of France - from the "meet the band" segment of Universal Pictures' 1930 musical (and tribute to Whiteman), The King Of Jazz:

The following bit of Fun On The Frets features Eddie performing a beautifully arranged duo with another superb early jazz guitarist, Carl Kress.

Eddie, like The Boswell Sisters, had a guest shot in The Big Broadcast Of 1932. He plays his customary stellar guitar and shares the screen with Bing Crosby:

Unfortunately, in one of those pointless tragedies, Eddie Lang passed away on March 26, 1933 as a result of a botched tonsillectomy. Music fans are very lucky that he recorded prolifically.

This blog extends 21st century bravos and huzzahs to this trailblazer of jazz guitar.

If this piques your swingin' heart's interest, by all means read Sally-Ann Worsfold's excellent and comprehensive liner notes from The Quintessential Eddie Lang CD - and we thank those who create the Red Hot Jazz website for posting them.

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